I guess it makes sense that in today's world of perpetual spoiler season, the previews for Innistrad: Midnight Hunt came and went in a flash, and just like that we're living in the Innistrad plane on Magic Arena and filling our nights with thoughts of Halloween and terrifying trainwreck drafts.
Anyway, we finally have the Werewolves of Midnight Hunt! Here's my favorite from the set.
We're starting today's list off with an unassuming Werewolf but one I think fills a pretty important niche. There's a ton of Red-Green type Werewolf tribal cards that buff up the power and toughness of your team and make sure you have the biggest, baddest Wolves in all of Commander.
But what gets lost in that is interaction - and in a world where decks are built at the EDH table and not the kitchen table, having cards in your theme that actually help you keep up with a full table are crucial; you're not just going to overrun a table with combat damage pumping up a bunch of rabid Wolves.
Brutal Cathar gives you that interaction, provided you can stretch your deck into White (it's been suggested that Tovolar, Dire Overlord may not be everything Werewolf players wanted and that Morophon, the Boundless is actually the best Werewolf commander). Anyway, if you do have a deck that can support Brutal Cathar, it has the ability to exile quite a few things at once, and it's the perfect high-upside, medium baseline cards tribal decks need.
Tovolar, Dire Overlord
Speaking of Tovolar, Dire Overlord, let's break it down as a leader, since it's the much-anticipated replacement for the largely disappointing Ulrich of the Krallenhorde from Eldritch Moon. I've heard conflicting opinions on Tovolar, but by and large the consensus seems to be that it's fine as a commander, even if it's not splashy.
That's less than Werewolves wanted, but I think it would have come as less of a blow - because honestly there's nothing wrong with Tovolar - if it weren't combined with the fact that Innistrad: Midnight Hunt has so few actual Werewolves in the set and the new ones don't play nicely with the old ones (even if the new mechanic is much better). All in all, Werewolf fans like myself weren't blown away by the set, and Tovolar kind of exemplifies that - it's a perfectly serviceable commander that does a lot of things creature decks want, but it certainly doesn't come with any kind of wow factor or specific pull to build around it. If you were going to build Werewolf tribal, now you have your commander. If you weren't already planning on that, Tovolar isn't likely to convince you otherwise (especially when it comes at the cost of some of the cards in other colors).
With that said, the Dire Overlord is powerful for the tribe. 3 mana is on the cheap end for a commander, and Tovolar keeps the card flow coming as you swing with one of your many two-drop Werewolves. You're pretty much committed to spamming the board as a creature deck, and Tovolar at least rewards you for that by forcing a nighttime swap. The backside of the card is more of the same, but comes attached to a Kessig Wolf Run. Reasonable and reasonably powerful, but nothing to hold your attention for long in today's world of new sets every other week.
As I write this, I have to reiterate my disappointment with the Werewolves we got in Midnight Hunt. Maybe our expectations were off, but the impression was certainly that this was going to be heavy-Wolf set and the upcoming Crimson Vow would switch the focus to Vampires. Instead, we have basically Innistrad Remastered, Part 1 here and Part 2 on the way. And that's not a bad thing at all - I love seeing all the past Innistrad stuff come together - but when it comes to Werewolves that aren't just Limited fodder, it's easy to come away disappointed.
That said, Kessig Naturalist breaks the mold a little bit and gives you some powerful Werewolf-aiding abilities. It's passable as a 2/2 that will grow as you play your tribal synergies, and adding mana that sticks around allows you to really get ahead of the curve, something that will be vital to playing Werewolves in a larger group setting.
And most importantly, the flipside of this actually has teeth. Lord of the Ulvenwald keeps the mana-generating ability, but adds power and toughness and gains a critical lord effect for your other Wolves, pumping the team. While that in itself is sort of hit or miss in Commander, the fact is that the Werewolf deck now has access to a handful of Wolf-pumping effects, and the critical mass really matters when you start talking singleton formats.
Remember how I talked about interaction being so important to tribal creature decks? Well, artifact and enchantment hate isn't exactly lacking in Green, but Outland Liberator gives you an in-Wolf option for taking care of things.
And while the front side of the card is sort of on par with what you'd expect - being able to trade itself for a problematic permanent - it's the backside Frenzied Trapbreaker that really shines. Artifact and enchantment destruction is good; repeatable artifact and enchantment destruction is great. Just ask Aura Shards. Add that to the fact that it retains the ability to sacrifice itself one-for-one with a problem permanent, and Frenzied Trapbreaker is one of the best payoffs in Midnight Hunt for actually turning it to night.
One of the interesting quirks about Werewolves compared to some other tribes is that most of the creatures are spaced right in the middle of the curve. If something like Elves represent the low end where almost everything costs 1-3 mana and something like Eldrazi represents the other end where everything is 6+, then Werewolves fits comfortably into the middle.
Which isn't necessarily a great thing for Commander. That pretty much just means you're too slow to attempt an aggressive strategy, but not big enough to really scale into the late game with the big-mana decks. That's not a problem confined to Werewolves, of course, but when your options for what creatures to include are necessarily limited, it matters.
Which is where Tovolar's Huntmaster comes in. The Werewolf Grave Titan is incredibly powerful. The front side would already be a decent top-end to spit out a bunch of Werewolves, but the fact that the nighttime version turns that into an ETB and an attack trigger is just massive for giving the archetype a rebuild tool in multiplayer games. And on top of that, Tovolar's Packleader also comes with a fight ability to make sure your Wolves get through! This is quite possibly the most important non-Tovolar Werewolf in the entire set.
I really love the day/night mechanic introduced in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. I think it makes the most sense for Werewolves, plays well in practice (if a bit hard to track in paper), and allows the plane to do all kinds of other stuff - it really feels like playing Magic in Innistrad, which is a really neat thing to convey with the mechanic, much like they did with venture into the dungeon. But I hope Crimson Vow comes with a lot more Werewolves!
Thanks for reading,